Phoenix, Sedona, Flagstaff

For my one week spring break I decided to keep it close and sketch, bird, and nature loaf in the Grand Canyon State (without visiting the Grand Canyon). And also see one of the best meteor crater strikes on planet earth along with the observatory where Pluto was discovered.

The Southwest is a landscape of red-rust rocks, olive greens, and blue skies. I would need a slightly different palette to capture the landscapes around Sedona, a different palette than I use in coastal California.

I added some more paints such as quinacridone burnt orange by Daniel Smith to add to the desert colors I would be using in attempting to render the Arizona landscapes before me.

The beginning of any adventure is creating a map. I may or may not stick to the route but it provides the framework for miracles and wonder (featured sketch).

From my digs in Sedona I would be heading north to the colder climes of Flagstaff and then 37 miles east to the Meteor Crater near Winslow. I want to field sketch the crater from its rim. It will be cold, with a high of 45 so I am bringing my October Yellowstone jacket beanie, and gloves.

Once I get the meteor crater in my sketchbook I will head back to Flagstaff to the Lowell Observatory, my sketching target: the Pluto Discovery Dome where the search for Planet X ended as Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930.

I return to Phoenix and chose to stay west of downtown. The location is near Skyharbor but also about 40 minutes to the famous “Thrasher Spot”. This legendary birding destination is the best place to see the elusive Le Conte’s thrasher (and three other thrasher species). Good thing I have this desert wraith on my life list already. This nemesis bird took a lot of time and legwork to see, but I finally saw a Le Conte’s on January 4, 2019 just west of the landfill at Borrego Springs. But I do not have Bendire’s thrasher and if I see this bird, I will close out all North American thrashers!


Sketching Red Rocks

Red rocks are a big drawn for visitors to Sedona, Arizona. These are not small rocks but mammoths named Bell, Cathedral, Coffeepot, Chimney, Steamboat, and Castle. To name a few.

I wanted to sketch a few of these Sedona features with my desert watercolor palette attempting to capture the rufous rocks. The red is caused by dissolved iron that has drained through sandstone layers for millions of years.

High on my list was to sketch the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Sedona must see since 1956. The chapel was build to fit into the red rocks like a jigsaw puzzle piece (featured sketch).

The Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona.
I sketched Bell Rock from the Chapel of the Holy Cross because all the Bell Rock parking lots were full by 8 AM.

In the afternoon I visited Red Rock State Park and had good light to sketch the iconic Arizona landmark: Cathedral Rock.

Red Rock State Park with Cathedral Rock in the background.
I sketch the iconic Cathedral Rock from the observation deck at Red Rock State Park.
At the base of Coffeepot Rock was a western movie set. Quite a few movies where filmed in and around Sedona. Now at the base is a gated community called “The Coffeepot Rock Cottages”. Cottages indeed!